DWP embarks on six-year modernisation scheme to ‘transform customer experience for 20 million people’

Publication of documents reveals major project now has a designated leader and has awarded several contracts to support programme governance and the development of a compelling ‘narrative’ for senior managers

The Department for Work and Pensions is embarking upon a major digital reform programme through which it aims to “transform the customer experience of approximately 20 million” citizens accessing services in a wide range of areas.

Newly published transparency documents reveal that the DWP recently formally appointed a senior responsible owner (SRO) for the Service Modernisation Programme – which has also now joined the Government Major Projects Portfolio. Matthew Briggs, a senior civil servant who has been with the department for over 20 years, will now spend 80% of his working life overseeing the delivery of the scheme.

His appointment letter reveals that the programme will run for six years. At the end of which, the objective is to “positively transform the customer experience” for about 20 million users of the DWP’s services in the areas “child maintenance, working age [benefits], carers and disabilities, state pension [and] pension credit, and disputes”.

This transformation will encompass the implementation of “more intuitive data-driven systems, automation and self-service, enabling customers to do simple things at a time that suits them without having to wait to speak to someone, and giving colleagues more time to help customers that need more support”. The scheme also intends to deliver “simplified and accessible services, rooted in user insight”.

The Service Modernisation Programme also has a remit to “fundamentally change the role, and services delivered for approximately 14,000” of the department’s staff – equating to one in six of its workforce.

The aim of this work “will be create the conditions for colleagues to thrive [and] do their jobs effectively… with all the right skills, able to join up and tailor services to meet individual customer needs, being supported by confident leaders that are landing change effectively”.

Even after the six-year delivery schedule of the project has elapsed, the DWP hopes the project will “create the environment, tools and capabilities for the services in scope and continually modernise beyond the timeframe of the programme”, according to the SRO-appointment letter.

Since the beginning of this year, the DWP has also awarded various contracts to help lay the groundwork for the project, and support the rollout of its earliest stages.

In January, Accenture won a £100,000 deal to assist the department in “developing a compelling narrative for the Service Modernisation Programme and effective engagement plans to secure buy-in across the complex stakeholder landscape”.

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According to procurement documents, the two-month engagement covered four main areas: “framing, narrative and vision; stakeholder mapping and planning; developing core programme products; [and] building capability within the in-house team and transfer of knowledge”.

In August, Accenture won another £100,000 deal to deliver a six-week project intended to “explain the service modernisation story, upskilling programme colleagues and wider service delivery leaders”.

Another consultancy, Moorhouse Consulting, was appointed to a one-month £50,000 contract in July to support the programme’s “leadership in finalising shared programme and digital governance to optimise delivery success”.

The contract-award notice added: “This follow-on work from programme maturity will clarify roles and processes to steer decisions across the programme, whilst accounting for existing lines of accountability within the department.”

Alongside these consultancy engagements, in April the DWP signed a six-month £500,000 deal with IT firm Coforge to provide the scheme with “digital specialists”.

The Service Modernisation Programme has been added to the Government Major Projects Portfolio since the release of the most recent set of annual project data – meaning precise timelines and budget information for the scheme are not yet publicly available.

Sam Trendall

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